Saturday, September 2, 2017

Azumanga Analysis -- Sakaki

 Y'know, if I weren't such a slacker, I could have had these past two posts up a year ago.

*sigh*  There's a reason why I stopped updating this blog.

Anyway, I'm at least going to finish off the Azumanga analysis.  Only two left, after all.

There's something I recently realized about Sakaki that I haven't heard anyone mention.  She's rich.  That's right.  In the Chiyo episode, Chiyo mentions that Sakaki lives in her neighborhood.  As shown by the first summer vacation episode, Chiyo lives in a wealthy neighborhood.  Thus, we know that Sakaki's family is wealthy.  This is almost confirmed by the fact that Sakaki never questions her ability to get her own place in the final year, nor talks about a job to keep it.  This of course isn't full confirmation, but it's a good speculative detail.

And it's also pretty much irrelevant to Sakaki's conflicts.  Just thought I'd mention it.

Sakaki is the introverted protector of all things cute.  She's also the one character whose talents are not a prime determinant of her future.  As athletic as Sakaki is, she has no interest in pursuing those fields.  Though her will is generally weak -- she can't fend off digs at her physical attributes -- her will is very strong when it comes to the specific things she wants.  She wants to pet a cute thing?  Then nothing will stop her in her quest to pet kamineko.  She wants to remain peaceful and calm when Kagura insists on a lunch-eating contest?  She does.  Not a thing Kagura can do will change Sakaki's mind.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Azumanga Analysis -- Takino Tomo

When I was watching the series to get an idea of the characters, I took the most notes on Tomo.  She's surprisingly deep for a flavor character.  A flavor character is someone in a story who is there to be interesting and provoke interesting reactions from other characters.  Which Tomo does with flying colors.  But she also can't quite be fully summarized by her wildcat idiot label.  In fact, Tomo's kind of a genius.   Stupidity and intelligence are fully capable of coinciding with each other, for some reason.

But of course Tomo isn't a genius by natural talent.  She's a pathetic scholar, because she's not really capable of putting her energy into studying without extra motivation.  It's like when she was first in the relay race of a sports fest -- she's very energetic, but she's not capable of using that energy efficiently.  This is something that affects every area of Tomo's life.  So in the end, we don't really know her natural talents because she's too busy being over-enthusastic to settle down in any of them.

In the manga, it mentions once that Tomo would be a good cheerleader.  I'm sad that this never really made it into the anime, but it's pretty much the perfect career for Tomo.  Sadly, I also think it's too girly to have much appeal.  Despite how Tomo insists that she's cute, Tomo isn't really interested in girly-girl things -- she likes to have a cool side, too.   Granted, maybe she'll realize that it's a good idea, but for the time being she still thinks she has better options.

Where Tomo really excels?  Will.  Tomo's strength of will is the greatest of anyone in the franchise.  Only Kagura's comes close, which is one reason why Tomo declares them rivals.  Tomo's will keeps her confident in the face of her own lack of talent, refusing to let her see that she really is a wildcat idiot. 

This is why I say that Tomo is a genius.  She knows in her heart that she isn't as smart or athletic as other girls, so she figures out ways that are both clever and dumb to manage to be "equal" to them.  For example, in the first episode, when neither she or Chiyo can answer a question in class, Tomo declares that they are both the same.  This isn't true, of course, but it's a funny way of dealing with natural inequality. 

This is the same sort of thing she does when she picks out certain passages to study for her second year exams, and when she decides that since she can't win a marathon, that she'll be in first place for the first kilometer.  When you think of this in terms of passing a test or winning a race, it's stupid.  But when you see it as a way to manage stress, it suddenly becomes sensible.  In a way, Tomo is setting a goal for herself and then achieving it.  Unlike Kagura, however, part of how Tomo sets her goals is by knowing how much she can achieve.  Kagura thinks she can win a marathon, so she tries.  Tomo knows she can't win a marathon, so she she tries something that takes less effort.  While there is some merit to what Tomo is doing, it in the end proves that Kagura has both a better attention span and willingness to put in effort.  So while Tomo might feel good about herself, Kagura actually placed well.

That's the downfall of Tomo.  She rarely tries for things that take sustained effort.  While her "short spurt" approach has supported her some, it won't help her sustain a career.  And who knows if she'll actually try to join the ICPO?  She'd just as likely think of some other idea and give that a try.  Just like getting into high school -- Tomo tried desperately hard to get in just to piss off Yomi, but after clear, concrete evidence that she can do well, she gave it up, because doing well in school just takes too much work.  Not even the thought of pissing off Yomi by doing better than her on a test seems enough to motivate Tomo now.

That's not to say Tomo brings nothing to the group.  She does have a talent, one that the other girls don't seem much blessed with.  And it is: the leadership talent.  Now, while I personally believe that all people can lead in one way or another, people who don't have much in the way of the specific leadership talent generally depend on circumstances to tell them when their expertise is best.  Tomo doesn't.  She immediately takes charge, and she has no expertise to reference.  What she does have is a group of friends with a wide range of talents and interests.  And knowing the best way to use those talents and interests, as well as being able to read a situation, is what the leadership talent is all about.

Note that Tomo takes charge a lot.  In the first sports fest, she sets Chiyo up for a speech, and later leads everyone to the tug-of-war event.  She's the one who led a "victory parade" at the end of the first culture fest, the one who provided a "logical" reason why they should go to Magical Land without Yomi, and persuaded everyone to eat lunch early in the second year.  Indeed, when she gave Ayumu her nickname "Osaka", everyone immediately accepted it.  Not one person questioned why the wildcat idiot was telling them what to do.  Heck, even Nyamo uses it. 

It's a bit early to say this, but my favorite Tomo moment perfectly illustrates my point.  The girls have just discovered that Kimura's wife is at the sports fest, and they want to find out if she's a good person or not.  Tomo, in mere seconds, comes up with the test of rolling a soda can and seeing if Kimura's wife picks it up.  The test works perfectly, demonstrating Tomo's ability to think on her feet.

Everything I've been saying to this point confirms Tomo's ability to handle pressure.  Anyone else would have buckled under the pressure of their circumstances, their peers, or their own mistakes.  Not our Tomo!  She doesn't let anything get her down.  Which is probably unhealthy in one way or another, but that's beyond the scope of the show.

If you're wondering why I'm going on so long about Tomo's good points, it's because her bad points are so obvious.  You don't need me to tell you that Tomo is an annoying, unproductive dummy.  Her impulses become actions (like stealing the key and throwing it away) to render everyone else pissed off at her. 

With the exception of Osaka.  If you'll notice, Tomo doesn't aggravate or attempt to rival Osaka past the first episode (except for the hiccups stunts, but everyone was in on that).  In that episode, she thinks she's getting an Osakan stereotype, and Kasuga Ayumu defied everything she knew about the city by being a quiet and reflective ditz.  You'd think that because Tomo enjoys picking on Chiyo that she'd do the same for Osaka.  Nope.  Chiyo and Yomi are vulnerable to Tomo for clear reasons: Chiyo is small and Yomi reacts quickly to anything out of her comfort zone.  They are thus far easier for Tomo to get at.  Osaka is surrounded by an impenetrable barrier of her own indifference, and Tomo can neither understand her nor find any reason to mock her.

But another reason why Osaka isn't a target is because she takes Tomo very seriously.  Keep an eye out for any moment where Tomo is telling a story.  Osaka's normally listening intently.  She's also the first one to agree when Tomo mentions having a victory parade.  Any time Tomo introduces a new idea, Osaka never disagrees with or questions it.  Tomo even reciprocates this attentiveness, to a degree.  As a result, Tomo doesn't seem to feel the need to poke fun at Osaka.

The key here is that Tomo craves attention.  She can get it from Osaka easily, so she doesn't try that hard for her.  But when it comes to Yomi and Chiyo, they would much rather be doing something reasonable.  Kagura is sort of in the middle, because while she listens to Tomo on occasion, she also provokes mischief from her too.  Sakaki's introversion makes her less of a target, as is her self-control  -- no entertainment to be found there. 

Tomo so much craves attention that she's willing to get it even from acting a fool.  She'll mess up Chiyo's jump rope session, make pointless challenges, and tell negative stories about how she got into that school just to make people pay attention.  Attention is a drug for her, and it makes it seem like Tomo grew up in a family full of pranksters and silly people (see: summer vacation festival) that she had to fight for attention to get anyone to notice her.  And she continues to fight in high school, despite the fact nobody there is as hyper as her family.

Tomo also expects to be mocked.  She feels strange in the final year when Chiyo quickly notices the cleverness of her riddles.  Likewise, when she's roughhousing with Kagura and Kagura knocks down the tent, Tomo is surprised that Kagura feels bad about it.  Tomo herself doesn't feel at all bad, as though she's denying herself the option of feeling that way.  And she doesn't feel comfortable until Kagura is yelling at her again.  Tomo doesn't mind being known as a screw up, so long as she's being known.

It's funny.  As much as Yomi is shown to be closest to Tomo, Tomo herself doesn't feel that close to her.  Through Tomo we see Yomi's weaknesses, but we never at all see Tomo's inner being.  At best we get a few hints of it, but her loud behavior prevents anyone from really knowing her.  As much as she pokes at Yomi for fun, she's actually closer to Kagura and Osaka.  Because Kagura is less self-controlled than Sakaki and less mature than Yomi or Chiyo, she can play with Tomo on a more level field.  They're actually sort of equals, on an emotional level -- in the game of life Kagura is still going to far outdo her, but Tomo can't see a vulnerability in Kagura that she herself doesn't likewise have. 

Bah, it's so hard putting words to it.  Watch the show!  Kagura and Tomo totally act like doofuses together, and it's undeniable they accept each other.  Kagura almost seems to admire Tomo's ability to be happy despite failing, and she doesn't feel bad admitting to Tomo that she got a lower score on her exam.  Kagura knows that Tomo will understand her.

The other bonkura, Osaka, is the other person Tomo is close to.  They're less close, as it's less fun to aggravate Osaka, but Tomo clearly appreciates Osaka's willingness to listen to her.  It almost seems like Tomo knows the depths of Osaka's nonsense, but having a follower is too nice for Tomo to take for granted.  This is why Kagura is closer, as she has greater credibility.  Kagura is the best of both Yomi and Osaka, so far as being Tomo's friend goes. 

Yukari is almost certainly a bad influence on Tomo.  If you look carefully, you can kinda tell that Tomo is more Tomo as the series goes on.  During the first year, Tomo sees Yukari and Nyamo arguing on the street, and that causes both her and Osaka to give up on their plans to act silly.  But in the third year Tomo is referring to her teachers with the -chan suffix and stating in the middle of class her sympathy with Yukari's worst impulses.  It's as if Tomo allows her most annoying side through because she knows Yukari will let her get away with it.  Any hopes Yomi might have had about school ridding Tomo of her nonsense are entirely dashed.

But there are still plenty of differences between Yukari and Tomo.  The similarity between these two is definitely stronger than between Nyamo and Yomi, but their differences are enough to ensure Tomo doesn't turn out like her teacher, assuming the absence of some horrible event, or that Tomo's will doesn't give out on her. 

That's the primary difference between the two.  Yukari is strong willed, but her strong will is like hanging from a ledge by your knuckles -- she's desperately trying to deny the depressing nature of her life and behavior that she has to be strong simply to stay up.  Tomo, on the other hand, has it pretty good.  She's surrounded by friends and has her entire future before her.

Likewise, Tomo could never be a teacher.  Yukari takes great pride in her english, and this pride enables her to do her job well.  Tomo not only lacks a clear and objective talent like this, but any particular need to rub in it others' faces.  Sure, Tomo's New Year's dream proves she has a love for beating her "rivals", but Tomo is clearly content so long as people are paying attention to her. 

Take for example her behavior at Chiyo's birthday party.  She gave Chiyo a box with a paper that says "feelings" on it, and a toy magic wand.  Despite Tomo opening the segment by calling it a birthday present contest, Tomo clearly wasn't at all trying to have the best, most expensive, or most practical present.  In fact, she seemed upset that everyone was talking about names for stuffed cats rather than about her antics, and changed the topic to an inane denial of a baseball team's ability to do well.  It wasn't even an interesting conversation, but Tomo preferred the focus on herself, even if what she says makes Chiyo mad.

As a reverse of this, Yukari doesn't care too much about people's attention.  So long as Yukari feels good enough about herself, she is content to nap and play video games all day.  She doesn't need to be admired by all (and indeed her need for superiority conflicts with her need for admiration), and she doesn't have the energy of a wildcat.  And as much as she likes to use other people for her own amusement, it does not appear to be her primary source of fun.  In fact, annoying other people seems more of a side affect of Yukari trying to do something else, much of the time.

Yukari also seems to enjoy other people acting foolishly or being unprepared (see: any time she leaves another person in front of an english speaker).  Tomo would rather behave foolishly than watch anybody else do anything.  Tomo is also not obsessed with fancy foods. 

And on a leadership level, Yukari is best when she sits on the sidelines and lets her students make decisions for themselves.  She's pretty good at facilitating, if for no other reason than she's not at all controlling.  Tomo can actually make people follow her whims, even her silly ones.  Tomo's the sort of leader whose risk-enjoying nature makes her the kind of person who could shake things up and provide innovation to old ideas, and any occupation needs innovation to survive and make progress.

In the end, however, Yukari probably did have some positive influence.  That is, Tomo could constantly see the a person similar to her, living an awkward life that's absent of achievement.  If Tomo is smart enough, she'll learn from this.  Big "if", huh?

I already mentioned my favorite, but my second favorite Tomo moment is when she is walking with Osaka and Chiyo, and the latter two can't help but accept tissues from the charity workers in the street.  Tomo here is counseling them on how to avoid being taken in, and for just this one scene, Tomo is the solid, mature one.  She's not running around, doing something stupid, saying something stupid, or annoying other people.  She's even helping other people.  It's one of two moments where Tomo is actually living the self she brags about being.  The other is when Tomo is asking Yomi what she wants for Christmas, but Yomi's sourness ruins Tomo's temporary goodwill.  If Yomi had answered honestly, Tomo probably would have bought her what she wanted.

Tomo may have the leadership talent, but the trouble with such a talent is that one can be a leader anywhere, and so being good at leadership can take a person nearly every place that exists.  Thus, it becomes somewhat difficult to narrow down her potentials.   Tomo --
- becomes a drunken partier in college, ending up in a bad relationship and not really doing anything with herself.
- gets frustrated with her own lack of talent, giving up on herself before discovering what she's really good at.
- becomes a cheerleader.
- bums a job from Chiyo or another friend.
- gets into a serious accident from her wild behavior, possibly ending up dead.
- slowly loses her teenage energy over time, and settles for a more normal life.
- becomes an actress.
- realizes how annoying she is and continually, not to mention hilariously, struggles to change her ways. 
- joins with Osaka in some half-baked, idiot scheme that gets the both of them in trouble and/or makes them lose all their money.  And maybe some of Yomi's money too.
- becomes a tour guide for vacationers. 
- becomes an airline stewardess and uses her flight privileges to travel to many places.

Tomo seems far better-natured than Yukari.  She hasn't yet become bitter about life, and she still has every chance to get ahead.  But like the quest to destroy the One Ring, Tomo's life stands on the edge of a knife.  Either she uses her energy productively, or her passions will destroy everything she hopes for.

Takino Tomo's ending: ----- Enough Drama for a Wildcat -----

Much to everyone's surprise, Tomo actually tries to become a cop instead of just talking about it.  She makes some progress to that end, but her discipline issues leave her in constant trouble in the force.  Tomo manages in the end to only become a security guard.  Kagura, however, has a sporting event in Japan, so she hires Tomo to be on her security detail.  The other Azugirls arrive to the event, excited to watch as Kagura competes. 

However, a political disagreement causes a lone man to want to cause trouble, and he starts shooting at the event.  Tomo stops him, but is shot in the process.  Because those holding the event wanted to avoid giving the shooter's political aims any publicity, the sporting event continues as planned.  Kagura doesn't find out what happened until the event is over.  It's revealed that Tomo's dumb antics actually provoked the man into shooting sooner, so he never got a chance to shoot many people.  In fact, no one else was hurt.

Tomo is in critical condition in the hospital, but after a day or so it seems that she'll live.  Her injuries will take several weeks to fully heal, and she has to spend a full week in the hospital.  During her last night there, Yomi visits.  Tomo, frightened by her brush with death, tells Yomi that she's going to give up and just settle for a normal life, like Yomi's.  Yomi is silent for a moment, then confesses to Tomo that she's been living vicariously through her.  Yomi says she's never at any point in her life had a real, crazy dream that she was trying to achieve, but by watching Tomo continually try, it felt like she was trying too.  Yomi begs her not to give up, and they both end up in tears. 

Yomi takes Tomo into her home while she recovers.  Tomo, re-energized by Yomi's hope, returns to the police academy to try again.  Everyone there knows what she did at the sporting event, and the faculty bows to her when she arrives.  Tomo does her best not to cry. 

Despite the fact she hasn't given up, her weeks spent recovering and being unable to get out her energy has changed Tomo.  She is calmer, more focused, and able to graduate the academy.  Nowhere near the top of the class, of course.  In the end, she doesn't join the ICPO, but is content being a police detective and crime scene investigator.

Tomo does marry, but she and her husband never have children.  Tomo is perfectly fine with this, as she considers Yomi's children her own, much to Yomi's dismay.